Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The "then" commandments


Almost 60 percent of Israel's estimated 100,000 ultra-Orthodox men of working age don't have jobs. They have prompted Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to assert that the haredim, as they are called in Hebrew, may impede Israel's prosperity. The low rate of employment is putting pressure on the economy in a way that is "not sustainable," Fischer told reporters in Jerusalem in July. About 50,000 ultra-Orthodox men who study full-time are also exempted from service in the military, which means they don't participate in an institution that has driven Israel's technology boom and helped transform its economy.

Imagine a Jewish state at odds with practicing Jews! Those most dedicated to holy practice are recast in the light of capitalism's needs: they "give a small amount but get a lot."

What self-respecting Jew "studies full-time" without consideration for the "institution that has driven Israel's technology boom and helped transform its economy?" Doesn't he know that the New Jew™ studies Microsoft Office, not the Torah?

Just as the modern woman must observe her feminism within cubicle -- or factory -- walls, the modern Israeli sports his best Jew by putting aside religion when his god announces itself amongst the flames of "prosperity."


Brian M said...

Given my skepticism about the value of these reactionary trolls sitting and reading them damn scrolls all day....I am almost sympathetic to the capitalists here. LOL.

And...given that these "religious scholars" certainly remain militantly in favor of using military force to maintain the purity of the religious state...there is some pretty serious hypocrisy here on their part. Especially since they generate no wealth themselves and receive direct financial benefits from the State and capitalism they purport to despise.

I'm not sure this is a good example. Even in pre-capitalist societies, was it wrong for the peasants to resent the mandatory, state-enforced tithes required to support in luxury the priestly castes?

JRB said...

Brian M:

There's no obvious moral conclusion for me. I'm just saying, look what's in conflict here. It's very interesting -- especially within the context of a "religious state."

Capitalism has to expand if it is going to exist, and that puts it in conflict with all sorts of competing trends. It also creates contradictions internal to itself, as it goes along.

We have to decide for ourselves which trends deserve to be defended against capitalism, and which trends deserve to be pursued through capitalism, insofar it is already upon us.

Brian M said...

Makes sense, JRB.

I just want to echo an earlier commenter that this is one of the more thoughtful (and eloquent) "political" blogs out there and I really enjoy your writing.

almostinfamous said...

we can think of Capital as the graveyard of all social relations. maybe that's a bit too fatalistic - maybe it's just a plague on all social relations, one that can be prevented with better living and care about our philosophical hygiene.

C├╝neyt said...

We can think of any force, sufficiently empowered, as the graveyard of all social relations. Now we're exiting capitalist critique and entering the way of all totality of power.

And I'll echo Brian's first observation. This is a dynamic that may be taking place within capitalism, but does not need capitalism in order to exist as it does. The ultra-orthodox despised the atheist socialist Zionists who subsidized them and declared the state of Israel without waiting for the moschiach. It is a great irony that marketeers, the allies of the ultra-orthodox, may be moving in on the sweet gig that is being a tax-funded religious scholar, but that is as much about capitalism as it is about the primacy of the state, or the nation, or whatever. Ethnic nationalists used to have more in common with the haredim. Now they may find more in common with the Russian xenophobes. This is not about capital anymore. It is about the juggernaut that is Power itself. And it ends up rolling all of us under, should it see a need.